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How To Treat a Blister

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Updated September 25, 2011

Blisters created by friction, like the kind you get on your feet or hands when hiking or climbing, can be painful and become infected. Whether or not a blister needs any treatment is still debatable. If the blister is small, unbroken and not very painful, it is probably best to leave it alone. If the blister is large or painful -- especially if the activity isn’t finished (such as you are in the middle of a hike) -- follow these steps to drain and dress it.
Difficulty: Average
Time Required: 30 minutes

Here's How:

  1. Clean the blister
    Gently clean the blister with soap and water, then wipe the blister and surrounding area with isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol.

  2. Drain the blister
    Heat a needle over a flame until the tip is glowing red. Let the needle cool without touching anything else. Poke a hole in the base of the blister to allow the fluid inside to drain. Press lightly on the blister to help drain it.

  3. Dress the blister
    Dab a little antibiotic ointment on the drained blister and cover it with a bandage.

Tips:

  1. Don't get burned holding the needle over the flame. Use a pair of pliers, hot pad or cloth to hold it. You don't want to create a burn blister while trying to fix a friction blister.

  2. If you must continue the activity that caused the blister, whether you choose to drain it or not, cut a piece of moleskin like a donut with a hole in the middle. Put the moleskin around the blister. This helps keep pressure off the blister, which should minimize any further injury. If you've drained it, then cover the whole thing with a bandage.

    Sources:

    Brennan, F.H. Jr. "Managing blisters in competitive athletes." Current sports medicine reports. Dec 2002.

    Knapik, J.J., et al."Friction blisters. Pathophysiology, prevention and treatment." Sports medicine. Sep 1995.

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